My first-time experience of the Visualizing Cities Lab has given me a refreshing framework to approaching cities, particularly event cities and their multiple entry points. Firstly, I learned that the lab’s method of comprehensively discussing cities from diverse angles and experiences not only emphasizes the dynamism of a city’s identity, but also the fact that they are generative sites that continue to produce new peculiarities and relationships. Articles such as “Cities and Their News Media Images” by Eli Avraham, illustrates this point and provided a stimulating way to think about how cities have dimensions that are both imagined and real.[1] These dimensions might consist of the city’s history, relationships, generalizations, stereotypes, and a variation of favorable and unfavorable public images that become processed for “place marketing.” This especially becomes clear when a city is chosen to host a major event such as the Olympics or the International Exposition. Through such events, cities observable on a local scale suddenly take up more space in the imagination of national and international media.

Thinking about cities in this way, and learning more about the similarities and differences between event cities included in the Visualizing Cities Lab, has informed me about how fruitful and intriguing this subject area is. The way in which the lab was set up as a free-flowing, open-ended discussion with lab members bringing in various experiences and interest points, was also a new and thought-provoking space. It was a helpful way in learning to let ideas lead the way, interact with each other, and formulate new ones with no pressure to keep them limited in scope or possibility.

The specific city team I was in was the Tokyo Team, focused on the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. With the advantage of being in a city team that hosted the most recent 2020 Olympics, it was fascinating to think back at the layered genealogy and continuity of such event cities. Our team initially discussed the various impressions of Tokyo’s relation to the Olympics including the cultural promotion of contrasting traditional and futuristic characteristics, the historical significance of Japan hosting the Olympics as the first Asian country, and the spatial transformations of reconstructing and destructing the physical infrastructure of the city. With such a rich array of cultural, historical, and spatial significances, the discussions themselves were enjoyable for me in noticing the dimensions of a city. We gradually started focusing more on the operative roles of Tokyo as the host of the 1964 Olympics in order to embody the most positive representation of Japan. This included infrastructure transformations and attention to cleanliness and sanitation, with seeing Tokyo as a dynamic body being a helpful entry point. Through exploring newspaper articles and images along with the discussions, the next step for our team would be to formulate a way to visually represent an aspect of the 1964 Olympics’ vastness. As we experiment more with Omeka and Neatline, we are interested in focusing in on the Olympic city’s physical evolution; through architecture as well as the mapping of both official and unofficial (artistic demonstrations) projects.

Visualizing Cities Lab-Tokyo Omeka Site:

Team Tokyo Notes:

[1] Avraham, Eli. “Cities and Their News Media Images” in Cities, Vol. 17, No. 5, (Elsevier Science, 2000) 363–370.